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December 17 , 2008

The Poetics of the Everyday

Creative Repetition in Modern American Verse


Wallace Stevens once described the "malady of the quotidian," lamenting the dull weight of everyday regimen. Yet he would later hail "that which is always beginning, over and over"& mdash;recognizing, if not celebrating, the possibility of fresh invention.

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Focusing on the poems of Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, and James Merrill, Siobhan Phillips positions everyday time as a vital category in modernist aesthetics, American literature, and poetic theory. She eloquently reveals how, through particular but related means, each of these poets converts the necessity of quotidian experience into an aesthetic and experiential opportunity. In Stevens, Phillips analyzes the implications of cyclic dualism. In Frost, she explains the theoretical depth of a habitual "middle way." In Bishop's work, she identifies the attempt to turn recurrent mornings into a "ceremony" rather than a sentence, and in Merrill, she shows how cosmic theories rely on daily habits.

Phillips ultimately demonstrates that a poetics of everyday time contributes not only to a richer understanding of these four writers but also to descriptions of their era, estimations of their genre, and ongoing reconfigurations of the issues that literature reflects and illuminates.

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